When children are learning a new skill, be it learning to walk, riding a bike or learning to talk, adults have a very important role. This role is perceived differently depending on what country you come from or what your cultural references are. For example, in China and in Korea offering praise is avoided in the hope that it will deter an inflated ego. In the western world, however, offering praise is felt to be the standard thing to do if we want our children to succeed.


What a clever girl!

Offering praise is something that most adults give to children naturally and automatically. As adults, we know ourselves how receiving praise or acknowledgement for our efforts can impact on our mindset. Whilst adult to adult praise might be less forthcoming, when it comes to giving our children a boost we are a dab hand! Phrases like ‘you are so smart!’, ‘what a clever girl’, roll out of our mouths with a genuine desire and hope to encourage good behavior and learning and most importantly make our children feel confident. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? If we want to encourage our children, then telling them how good they are at something is bound to achieve this right? Wrong! According to research in this area.


So what does the Research say about praise?

Research investigating the type of praise above has unearthed some remarkably interesting consequences and when it comes to glory, there might be a different story. Mueller and Dweck 1998 found that the type of praise we receive has a direct consequence on the kind of mindset that we develop. There are two types of mindsets referred to here; growth versus fixed.


Fixed mindset Growth mindset
Fixed mindsets are developed when a child receives praise about their piece of work or the outcome, e.g. “You’re so clever, you’re great at art…”. When asked if they would like to try a harder task about 80% of these children say ‘No’ in the fear that they will no longer be seen as ‘clever’. Having a fixed mindset also impacts upon the child’s creativity meaning that they are less likely to tackle harder tasks and use problem solving skills and perseverance. Growth mindsets are developed when a child receives praise relating to their effort in tackling a task and their willingness to try. e.g. “You tried so hard, I can see you’ve worked really hard…”. When asked if they would like to try a harder task about 80% of these children say ‘Yes’. When presented with harder tasks, children with growth mindsets develop skills in creativity and problem solving.


This study and others by these authors tell us that praise is powerful and that we can create two different personalities when it comes to tackling learning. When we praise intelligence, we end up with:






When we praise effort, we end up with:

Praise craze process 2




Here is a link to a very informative blog on this topic written by a parent: http://www.parent.co/what-happened-when-i-stopped-praising-my-child/

We’ve put together our top 5 examples of ineffective praise for you to takeaway with you!

Click Here to Download the PDF

How can we apply this to speech and language learning?

When our children are learning to talk, we might apply the findings above by saying something like ‘great trying!’, ‘I can see you are working hard’, ‘I like that word/sound, it helps me to understand’

Applauding your child is something that should be encouraged and the findings above offer a lovely insight. It is also important that you do what feels natural and comfortable for yourself and your child. In the end, it may be the level of sincerity with which praise is given that will make all the difference.

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

Written by Carolyn Fox, Speech and Language Therapist

Related articles

how to tell if your child has a speech or language issue

The importance of play in language development

Using questions to develop speech and language